05 July 2021, London – In the wake of the social justice movement and global pandemic, culture is at the heart of a world that needs healing.
Has progress on diversity & inclusion kept pace with increased awareness? The great work-from-home experiment proved that we could remain competitive and productive away from the office, and the race is now on for employers to produce long-term strategies that harness the best of both worlds while creating diverse and inclusive organisations.
As part of SRI’s “New Rules of Engagement” series, we got the views of several prominent C-suite leaders on the topic of culture: building, shaping, and changing for the next normal.
Ten takeaways emerged:
1. Culture is as good as the lowest common denominator
Leadership sets the culture and culture is only as good as the lowest common denominator. If you must talk about culture to the people that work in your organisation, you have already lost. Those ‘in charge’ who do not ‘walk the walk and talk the talk’ and take responsibility for the role they play in creating inclusive cultures will struggle to lead effectively.
2. We must become more competitive employers
The balance of power is shifting to employees, just as it shifted to consumers. The market for talent is booming. As the Apple workforce demonstrated recently, employees have tasted more autonomy while continuing to perform, and they want to keep it. The ‘war for talent’ has never been more ferocious. Organisations are competing, not just with rival businesses, but with changing lifestyle choices and the GIG economy. A competitive and well–rounded employee value proposition is vital.
3. ‘Grand gestures’ don’t replace the day-to-day
Extra holidays and perks can be great, but only when we get ‘the basics’ right. Conversations should be starting with ‘how are you?’ Listening, empathising and humble leadership have become hallmarks of organisations with engaged teams.
4. Do not confuse working location with employee experience
With so much debate about where people should physically be based, we must not forget what matters which is great overall employee experience. Ann Pickering (Strategic Advisor to KPMG’s leadership team) summed up the elements of a great employee experience “if you crack these seven you will have a culture that is healthy.”
5. We can be productive from a distance
We have seen just how much can be delivered from our homes. We have also seen many negative consequences of 18 months ‘out of the office’. To achieve the ‘best of both worlds’ needs strong values underpinning cultures – lived and breathed by leaders, a new level of ‘trust’ coupled with effective methods to track productivity metrics that matter – not hours at a desk – rather output produced.
6. Necessity breeds innovation
We simply had to do it. And many of us did. How can we harness this feeling of necessity positively and powerfully? Strategies to be innovative and creative when not ‘forced’ to do it will be powerful.
7. We must not be complacent on DEI
We must guard against complacency and not confuse awareness for diversity and inclusion issues with real action.
8. Diversity targets for short lists make a difference
Stated targets for short lists hold those responsible for hiring to account for intentionally driving diversity in hiring. Intentionality, focus, effort, and meeting commitments create progress. Once progress is made, ‘differentiated development’ is necessary and powerful to ensure success.
9. A level of virtuality can be helpful for inclusion
In the past, working from home regularly could negatively impact career progression. Hybrid working will help prevent penalising, for example, people who need to handle the school pick-up. We must create cultures that allow everyone to not feel singled out. Organisations need to be prepared for issues concerning those vaccinated versus those who have not and the ramifications of that.
10. The pandemic highlighted unequal opportunities
2020 brought us into colleagues’ homes. We suddenly became more aware of childcare requirements, home working situations, internet connectivity, digital and technical literacy, medical conditions and more. Homeworking was a monumentally distinct experience depending on circumstances: the parent home-schooling 3 young children in a tenth–floor apartment as compared to the director with a live-in nanny and purpose–built home office. The important thing continues to be turning seeing and understanding into meaningful actions.
Values underpin culture; culture will (and must) evolve. Human first, inclusive leadership will ensure we not only walk the bridge between intent and impact, but we make it to the other side.